Ditchburn Boats Limited


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Ditchburn Boats Limited

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  • H. Ditchburn Boat Manufacturing Company Limited
  • Ditchburn Boat and Yachting Company
  • Ditchburn Boat and Aircraft Limited

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Ditchburn Boats Limited of Gravenhurst, Ontario was a prominent boat building company that made a series of popular speed boats called "runabouts" during the 1920s.

In 1869 Henry Ditchburn, along with his three brothers Arthur, John and William, immigrated from England to Canada, attracted by the Free Grant Lands available to settlers in the Muskoka region. They settled in Gravenhurst and started building canoes, rowboats and small sailboats for vacationers in the region.

In 1880 they opened a boat repair and manufacturing shop in Port Carling and shortly after established the Muskoka Boat House at Gravenhurst. They also opened boat-making and boat-renting branches at Lake Joseph and Rosseau Bay to service the luxury hotels.

In 1900 a Ditchburn Boat factory was established by Henry Ditchburn on the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst, which was seen as the centre of future tourism and development in the region. In 1904, Herbert Ditchburn, the son of William, bought the boatmaking business from his uncle Henry and started making power boats. In 1907, it was incorporated as H. Ditchburn Boat Manufacturing Company Limited with Herbert Ditchburn as president and Alfred Ditchburn and Thomas Greavette as directors. The company was commonly called the Ditchburn Boats Limited.

During the 1920s, Ditchburn 'runabouts' with their vee-shaped design, gained international recognition and racing success. The Rainbow series of racers was used by Harry Greening to win several motorboat racing competitions, including the Fisher Gold Cup and the New York Boat Show in 1920. The Rainbow I was called the 'best runabout ever built' and the Rainbow III and IV shattered world records for 24 hour endurance, being the first boats to break 1000 miles in 24 hours.

In 1932 due to the troubled economic times, Ditchburn Boats Limited declared bankruptcy and was reorganized a year later as the Ditchburn Boat and Yachting Company. They focused on a line of smaller boats, rather than the luxurious earlier models. Continuing economic problems, however, led to the company re-organizing once again as the Ditchburn Boat and Aircraft Limited in 1936. During this period, several large vessels were built for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In 1938 the company declared bankruptcy again and closed for good. Herbert Ditchburn moved to Trenton, Ontario and during the Second World War started Aero-Marine Crafts Limited with Gar Woods to produce liberty engines modified for aircrafts, build hospital ships, and other products to be used in the war effort.

Herbert Ditchburn died in Trenton in 1950.



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Added Apr/12.

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